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Iao Needle, Maui, Hawaii. Author Michael Oswald. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike
Iao Needle, Maui, Hawaii. Author Michael Oswald

Maui: an immense volcano and a spectacular coastline

Maui (120,000 inhabitants) is an island of volcanic origin which is formed by two shield volcanoes interconnected by an isthmus, after Big Island, Maui is the second island in size of the Hawaiian Islands (1,883 sq km – 727 square miles).

Maui is located in north-west of the Big Island (Hawaii) from which is separated by the ‘Alenuihāhā Channel, to the west are the islands of Molokai and Lanai, while to the south-west are the island of Kaho’olawe and the small island of Molokini. The island is full of natural attractions, volcanoes and waterfalls.

On the eastern side of the island is the youngest volcano, who is also the highest mountain on the island, the Haleakala (10.023 ft. (3.055 m)), while the western part is formed from what remains of the more ancient volcano, highly eroded, which forms the West Maui Mountains, of which the Pu’u Kuku (5.788 feet (1.764 m)) is the highest mountain.

The main commercial, business and government center of Maui is the town of Kahului situated in the isthmus connecting the two parts of the island, it houses the main airport and seaport of the island. The island’s economy is based on agriculture and tourism.

WHAT TO SEE IN MAUI: TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

EAST MAUI: HANA

Homoa Beach, Maui, Hawaii. Author Navin75. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike

Homoa Beach, Maui, Hawaii. Author Navin75

The “Heavenly Road to Hana” is about 50 miles of one-lane bridges. Coastal vistas, numerous waterfalls and wayside stops line the curvy road. A non stop drive takes two hours, although visitors should set aside an entire day. Once in Hana it’s hard to leave, its isolation and beauty make it the “real” hidden Hawaii.

The Keanae Peninsula is hard to miss from its lookout point. A tiny community stretches out before motorists with its velvet emerald checkerboard of terraced loi patches growing taro for poi. Three miles before Hana is Waianapanapa State Park with caves, a black sand beach, a seabird colony and a coastal hiking path. Tropical plants abound at Alii Gardens, open weekdays and between mile markers 26 and 27.

Tiny Hana Town spills into the green pastures of Hana Ranch where visitors can take horseback rides. Visit Hale Waiwai O’Hana, “House of Treasure of Hana”, complete with rare old area photos, quilts, shells, and numerous artifacts from 10 a.m. -4 p.m.

The Hana experience continues past town and along Hwy 31. First stop is Wailua Falls and then Oheo Gulch. The latter is popularly called the Seven Pools, as pools topple from one another be4fore flowing into the ocean. Oheo Gulch is part of Haleakela National Park, and rangers offer hikes up the pools through bamboo forest to the 400 feet Waimoku Falls. There in the cool fresh water, visitors are left to enjoy the Hawaii they’ve dreamed about.

HALEAKALA VOLCANO —>>>

WAILUKU TO KAHULUI

In Wailuku the Maui Historical Society Museum, whose structure was built between 1833 and 1850, was once home to missionary Edward Bailey and his family. Today it is a museum containing Hawaiian artifacts from times before Western contact, as well as furniture and other household items from the missionary days.

Kanaha Pond, a spring-fed freshwater pond, is a bird sanctuary and home to various waterfowl including the endangered Hawaiian stilts, herons, ducks and cattle egrets. In ancient times it was a fishpond for the alii (royalty), who fattened their favorite breeds in the pond.

Kanaha Beach Park is a long strand of sandy beach that is great for picnicking. On still days the swimming is excellent. When the wind is up, so are the windsurfers with their colorful boards and sails slicing through the water.

Dominated by the 2,250 foot spire of Iao Needle, Iao Valley State Park has paved pathways which meander down to the stream and up to a sheltered lookout with a magnificent view of the valley and Kahului Bay.

IAO VALLEY AND WEST MAUI MOUNTAINS

Iao Needle, Maui, Hawaii. Author Michael Oswald. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike

Iao Needle, Maui, Hawaii. Author Michael Oswald

The volcano that formed the West Maui Mountains is older than Haleakala. It once towered about 7,000 feet above seal level and 20,000 feet from the ocean floor. The highest point, Pu’u Kukui, now stands at 5,788 feet and is the second wettest spot in Hawaii with an average yearly rainfallof about 400 inches.

Much of this untamed mountain range is totally inaccessible by land. The only way to penetrate its secrets is by air. There’s a hushed, sacred feeling here that makes you understand the reverence Hawaiians have for their land. Magnificent valleys radiate from the center of the West Maui Mountains.

The most well-know is Iao. Its opening is punctuated by Iao Needle, a 2,250-foot cinder cone pinnacle, one of the island’s most recognizable landmarks.

In 1790 Kamehameha conquered Maui in an unevenly matched battle against Kalanikupule, son of Maui’s King Kahekili. The chiefs escaped through a mountain pass to Olowalu, but so many warriors were slaughtered that their corpses dammed the stream and the water ran red with blood. Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens in Iao Valley State Park commemorates the battle; Kepaniwai means “damming of the waters”.

LAHAINA

Lahaina’s unique seaside setting tells a tale of how the bustling whaling industry of the 19th century met headlong with Protestant missionaries who were determined to clean the town of debauchery and drunkenness.

Today, Lahaina is Maui’s historical attraction and certainly one of the state’s most visited destinations. No matter from what end visitors browse along the famed, dockside Front Street, strollers get a look at the melding of three different cultures: whalers, missionaries and native Hawaiians.

At one end is the massive banyan tree and landmark Pioneer Inn. On the opposite end is the Wo Hing Temple which served as the headquarters for Chee King Tong, a worldwide Chinese fraternal society. The ornate structure, built early in the century, was in danger of being demolished. It was restored in the early 1980’s and has been open to the public since 1984. Next door is the Cook’s House which shows the Edison films, an amazing depiction of turn-o-the-century life in Hawaii, reportedly the first moving pictures made in the islands.

Near the center of Front Street is the Baldwin Home Museum, the quarters of Dr. Dwight Baldwin and his family from 1836 to 1868. The museum contains period artifacts and is next door to the Masters Reading Room at the corner of Dickenson Street.

The old Lahaina Luau: a traditional feast and authentic Hawaiian music and dance.

The old Lahaina Luau is consistently rated one of the top events of its kind in the state. Its reputation is based upon an emphasis on tradition, gracious hospitality and excellent service. The Luau evening begins with a shell lei greeting and a tropical drink at the open bar. Guests are then seated as they prefer, either at tables or on the ground, as is customary for a traditional Luau. The enchanting musical program that follows traces the hula and Hawaiian history from its roots in the Marquesas Islands of Tahiti to the beautiful, graceful hulas of more modern times.

The Luau is located along a tranquil stretch of beach in Lahaina town which was, more than 300 years ago, the center of royal life and the home of the great chiefs of Maui. It was called “Lele” in the ancient chants. Here, the great chief Kahekili made his home, drawing to his court the pick of Maui’s aspiring young ali’i and warriors. In the years following, Kamehameha the Great would spend pleasant days at “Lele” enjoying the famed waves of the royal surfs’ Uhailio and Uo.

Pigs, chickens, fruit and vegetables were raised from the area’s rich and cultivated lands, and, as is traditional with royalty in most cultures, lavish entertainment and feasts were offered to chiefly guests. Arrangements for such a feast could take many days while underground ovens (“imu”) were made ready for the pigs, taro, sweet potato and fish. Additionally, foods such as poi, a staple of the ancient diet, and breadfruit (ulu), a special delicacy which once grew profusely in Lahaina, were prepared.

The royal guests were seated comfortably around the dancing area as the drums and chanting called forth the dancers. Then, as they do at the nightly Old Lahaina Luau, the dancers interpreted the chanted stories with gestures, expressions and movements. This is the traditional hula, with love and reverence, as it was meant to be performed.

KAANAPALI TO KAPALUA

Just north of Lahaina is the resort community of Kaanapali. Between the two areas is the indoors Lahaina Cannery Shopping Center. Kaanapali is Hawaii’s first resort community. It was built in the ’60 around its famous beach and championship golf facilities. Stop at the free whaling museum at the three level Whalers Village shopping mall.

Kaanapali is a playground for people the world over, with its world-class resorts and beaches. Each of the major resorts has its own personality, as you’ll see when strolling through the lobbies and grounds, some of which have phenomenal collections of art and exotic birds. Each fronts a stretch of gorgeous Kaanapali Beach where you can swim, snorkel, scuba dive, windsurf, or just soak up the sun.

There are two spectacular 18-hole championship golf courses in Kaanapali. The picturesque North Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones, places a premium on putting. The South Course, designed by Jack Snyder, though shorter, requires accuracy. Most of the major resorts have tennis courts for guests, many lighted for night play. One of Hawaii’s largest collection of memorabilia from Maui’s whaling days is in the Whaling Museum at Whalers Village shopping and dining complex.

Further north, Hwy. 30 has a Lower Honoapiilani turnoff to Kahana, called the “Home of Rainbows”. Kahana and Napili are lined with condominium resorts that enjoy views of offshore Lanai and Molokai and the West maui Mountains. Take Hwy. 30 to get to D.T. Fleming Beach Park , a great spot for families. Adjacent to the park is the well-groomed Kapalua Bay Resort overlooking Kapalua Bay. Kapalua takes its name from the ancient Hawaiians, meaning “arms embracing the sea”. The arms of lava rock that reach into the ocean help protect the beach and offer opportunity for watersports.

KIHEI TO WAILEA TO MAKENA

Big Beach, Maui, Hawaii. Author Fiuchris. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike

Big Beach, Maui, Hawaii. Author Fiuchris

South Maui is the island’s fastest growing area. Kihei, the area’s commercial hub, is about 20 minute drive from Kahului Airport. Wailea is the area’s upscale resort center. It boasts five star hotels and restaurant. Past Wailea is Makena with endless white sand beach and La Perouse Bay where there’s premiere snorkeling. En route to the bay, motorists view Maui’s vast lava fields, left from the last eruption of dormant Haleakala.

Beaches are big in south Maui and they all have views of offshore Lanai, Kahoolawe and Molokini. Kamaole Beach Park I, II and III are strung along South Kihei Road, the latter having a playground. Also along the main thoroughfare are numerous shopping centers.

La Perouse Bay: Haleakala last erupted around 1790. Molten lava poured from two vents all the way to the sea at La Perouse, which is named after the French explorer Compte de La Perouse, the first European to set foot on Maui. The brown lava trail is still clearly visible. The stunning colors of tranquil La Perouse Bay are even more vivid when seen in contrast to the barren, rock-strewn coast.

FLIGHTSEE THE ISLAND OF MAUI

Want to see waterfalls plunging a thousand feet, rain forest bursting with color and exotic vegetation, a dormant volcano with such a stark lunar landscape that astronauts practiced their moon landings here, all within the space of an hour ? Then hop aboard a helicopter for a view of Maui you can’t get from the ground.

You can drive up 10,000 foot Haleakala (House of the Sun) and peer over the crater’s edge, or traverse its floor by foot or on horseback (recommended for hardy souls), but only a view from the air gives you the full impact of this magnificent volcano.

Inside its 21-mile circumference is a desert plain, luxuriant forests, meadows and multicolored volcanic cinders, which glow red and orange in the bright sun and soft shades of purple, blue and gray in the shadow of the clouds. The barren interior contrasts sharply with the greenery spilling down the outer slopes.

The dramatic variations in climate and land formations are a large part of what makes helicopter flightseeing so exciting. The West Maui Mountains are rugged and verdant, with jagged peaks and deeply grooved valleys hiding waterfalls that cascade a thousand feet or more.

The central part of Maui and “Upcountry” Maui (along the slopes of Haleakala) are agricultural areas where the rich volcanic soil supports sugar, pineapple, diversified agriculture and ranchlands. The south shore, except where irrigated, is generally desert and scrub, Haleakala having already snagged the rain clouds and emptied them of their moisture. Variety is the norm here.

Heavenly Hana, on the back side of Haleakala, is one of the most beautiful backsides you’ll ever hope to see. While it takes hours and a lot of patience to drive the narrow, winding road that has literally been carved from the rain forest, you can get an overhead panorama in the confort of a helicopter seat.

The forest itself has every imaginable shade of green with ferns, bamboo, coffee plants and African tulip trees in brilliant bloom. Of the more than 2,500 species of plants in Hawaii that grow nowhere else on earth, many are found in this very forest.

The blues are just as spectacular as the greens. Where the deep Pacific meets the rocks and shallows along the coast, the water is a vivid seafoam blue that defies description, let’s just call it Hana Bay blue.

In a helicopter, you can skim just above the water’s surface, swoop into the jungle’s tangled interior or hover over a secluded pool where fresh, clear water spills in lacy streams. As you climb-and climb, and climb- to the edge of Haleakala and fly over the last peak, the thrill is like getting to the top of a hill on a roller coaster, except you float, not drop, over the crest.

If you’re lucky, you’ll see mountain goats leaping over ground so steep you can’t imagine a foothold is possible. Encapsulated in a cozy glass bubble listening to music specially chosen to blend with the changing scenes and moods of the landscape, you’ll feel like you’ve entered the twilight zone.

If you came to Maui for a change of peace and a change to get away from it all, here’s your chance. Treat yourself to a helicopter tour. You deserve it.

This post is also available in: German

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